The consequences of malnutrition – including lost laborers, healthcare expenses and lower productivity – cost Pakistan US$7.6 billion, or 3 percent of GDP, every year, according to a new report launched by the Pakistan Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Secretariat at the Ministry of Planning Development & Reform, in collaboration with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
The report “The Economic Consequences of Undernutrition in Pakistan: An Assessment of Losses” used economic modeling to review 15 nutrition indicators from the 2011 National Nutrition Survey and the 2013 Pakistan Demographic Graphic Survey.
More than 177,000 children die every year in Pakistan before their fifth birthday because they or their mother are malnourished. The value of this lost future workforce is estimated at US$2.24 billion annually.
More than 90 million cases of diarrhea and respiratory infection among children are attributed to poor breastfeeding practices and zinc deficiencies each year, costing health care systems and families more than US$1 billion annually.
More than two-thirds of Pakistan’s children suffering from stunting, anemia or iodine deficiencies will suffer deficits in mental and physical development, leading to lower school performance and lower productivity as adults, depressing GDP by US$3.7 billion annually.
More than 10 million working adults with anemia experience chronic weakness and fatigue, reducing economic output in industry, agriculture and other manual jobs by more than UD$657 million annually.
“Malnutrition is a heavy burden – both for the mother of a weak baby, but also for the economy of Pakistan. And each time a malnourished child is born to a malnourished mother, the burden grows. It is possible to reduce this burden and to overcome the consequences of undernutrition, but we need to work together, we need to work with local communities, and we need to scale up our interventions for maximum impact,” said WFP Deputy Country Director Stephen Gluning.
In response to the report, the Ministry of Planning Development & Reform (MPDR) and the Health Services Regulation & Coordination are planning to review existing malnutrition programmes to identify possible gaps and make recommendations on actions to take. “The Government of Pakistan is taking many steps towards improving the situation, but much work remains to be done to achieve food security and also improved nutrition indicators,” said Mr. Sikandar Hayat Bosan, Federal Minister for Food Security & Research.
“It is quite obvious that one ministry alone cannot bring major change, but assistance is needed from all sectors and joint efforts from the government, development partners, particularly the civil society, to achieve significant success”, he added.
In order to enhance coordination, collaboration and partnerships in the fight against malnutrition, a Declaration of Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Pakistan was signed in 2013. Since then, various networks have been formed and are working under the leadership of the MPDR/ SUN Secretariat, linking Government, donors, UN agencies, civil societies, business community and academia.
“The Government of Pakistan has given due attention to nutrition, we believe that nutrition is important for good health and human wellbeing, therefore it has been an integral part of SDGs and Vision 2025” said Professor Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Planning Development and Reform/ Deputy Chairman Planning commission.
He added “we need knowledgeable, creative and highly cognitive, as well as innovative manpower to implement our high efficiency economic development programmes that can only be done by ensuring food and nutrition security”. Yousaf Naseem Khokar, Secretary Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform appreciated the efforts by the MPDR and WFP to put forward the piece of evidence showing the gravity of current nutrition situation and its economic consequences to the tune of UD$7.6 billion annually in terms of GDP loss at 3 %. He added that in order to improve human capital and in turn to accelerate economic growth we need to break the vicious cycle of poverty and undernutrition.
Dr. Mubarik Ali, Member Food Security and Climate Change appreciated the effort and said, “The report shows that it is the time for more comprehensive, multi-sectoral, effective and strategic programmes to reduce the current prevalence of undernutrition in Pakistan.
The SUN Movement is led by the government and supported by organizations and individuals to promote collective actions to ensure that every child, adolescent, mother and family can realize their right to food and nutrition, reach their full potential and shape sustainable and prosperous societies.
MPDR is currently spearheading the movement in the country and promote and support multi-sectoral actions to address malnutrition, our goal is to have world free from malnutrition in all its forms said Mr. Aslam Shaheen, Chief Nutrition/ SUN Focal Point Pakistan.—Agencies